BHUTAN, the land of the Thunder Dragon, this mountain Kingdom is still
perhaps the world's most exclusive tourist destination. Thanks to the Royal
Government's far sighted policy of selective and regulated tourism, the
numbers of tourists have remained low and the cultural values and
traditional life-style of Bhutan have been protected. An unspoiled country
with majestic mountains imbued with a certain mystique; a unique cultural
heritage preserved intact and with a continuity of many centuries; an
architectural style like no other; a land of full of 'warm hearted and
Situated in the heart of the Great Himalayas,
the world's mightiest range; Bhutan is flanked on the north and north west
by Tibet, the plains of north-east India to the south and south-west and the
hills of India's north eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh to the east. The
kingdom is spread over an area of 18000 sq. miles, with varied climatic
conditions; ranging - as the terrain climbs; in horizontal bands - from the
hotel and humid Southern foothills, to the temperate inner Himalaya and,
finally, to the nearly 7700 m high snow caps of the High Himalaya that
defines Bhutan's northern frontier.
Bhutan has a population of
about 1 million and its state religion is the Drukpa sect of Kagyupa, a
school of Mahayana or Varjrayana/Tantric Buddhism; making it the last
surviving Buddhist Kingdom. In the eleven centuries since it was introduced,
Buddhism has shaped the national's history and plays a vital role.
In western Bhutan; Paro, Thimphu (the capital) and Punakha (the old
capital), ; in Central Bhutan; Tongsa (ancestral seat of Bhutan's ruling
dynasty) and the bucolic beauty of the high valleys of Bhumthang are most
visited by tourists. In the recent years, Bhutan has become a paradise for
trekkers and mountaineers. Trekking through the hills of the country
sighting rate botanical plants and herbs and encountering a multitude of
colourful birds and rare animals; the takin, blue sheep, burket, musk deer
and, in the lonely reaches of the High Himalaya, the elusive snow leopard.
Perhaps, for all we know, even the apocryphal yeti!
THIMPHU, the capital of Bhutan since 1960, lies at an elevation of over 7600
feet in a fertile valley transversed by the Thimphu Chhu River.
Tashichhodzong, the main secretariat building, houses all the Ministries,
the National Assembly Hall, the office of the King and the Throne Room. It
is also the summer residence of the monk body and the religious chief, the
In the National Assembly Hall, the two storey high
statue of Lord Buddha, wall paintings depicting the twelve stages of
Buddhahood and columns of Kanju and Tenju (Buddhist scriptures) exemplify
the superiority of religion over politics.
The yearly Thimphu
Festival is held in the courtyard directly in front of the National Assembly
Hall. Houses in the Uchi, the tall citadel type temple in the middle of two
courtyards, is one of the two largest thankas (religious scrolls). It is
displayed to the public once in 25 years. Prominently standing out in
Thimphu is the stupa styled monument dedicated to the late King, His Majesty
Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who is the father of modern Bhutan. The paintings and
statues inside the stupa provide a very rare insight into Buddhist
philosophy. Five miles away from Thimphu stands the Simtokha Dzong on a
lofty ridge and it still enjoys the strategic importance today that it did
in 1627 when it was first built by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyal.